Welcome to the Remix 

The Trailmix pitch competition returns to Boise, this time powered by yogurt

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Courtesy Trailhead

A hefty share of the products stocked on the shelves at Albertsons, WinCo, Traders Joe's and Whole Foods got their starts in home kitchens, even if these days they're made in massive factories. If it's wrapped in paper or plastic and didn't come straight from a field or off of a tree, odds are someone once paused on the street, struck with the idea that this product would be tasty, nutritious, or just the thing to make them millions.

This year on Wednesday, Oct. 9, at the business incubator Trailhead Boise, dozens of people who have experienced those eureka moments will gather in a single room for Trailmix, a pitch competition for food startups that's now its second year. The 2018 contest during Boise Startup Week saw over 40 entrants and products ranging from snack bars to tea blends. They competed for a chance to win a meeting with Albertsons' sales managers, product placement in the Broadway Albertsons, and a one-year Trailhead membership. Joni Kindwall-Moore, founder of the Coeur d'Alene-based company Snacktivist Foods, took home the top prize for her vegan, gluten-free cookies.

This year's contest will have the same format, but more tempting prizes thanks in part to Idaho-based yogurt company Chobani, which joined Albertsons, Kitchen 2 Shelf and IGEM at Trailhead to present the event.

"One cool thing [Chobani is] doing for our Trailmix event is that all of the five finalists get access for two days to their innovation center in Twin Falls," said Trailhead Executive Director Tiam Rastegar. "They all get paired with a food scientist, so they get to prototype and work on developing their products."

The winner will also cash in on a $20,000 prize and shelf space at Albertsons, while the People's Choice winner will take home $5,000. Rastegar said this year's submissions included an influx of products in the natural, organic, ethnic and health food spaces. Some of them use alternate protein sources like crickets, and one is a dairy-based chicken nugget Rastegar swears tastes like real meat. Overall, the 2019 contest brought in more than 30 new applicants in addition to returning contestants. While the Trailmix team is excited about the new entries, Program Manager Matthew Gilkerson is equally happy to see last year's faces. After Trailmix, a few 2018 finalists won other accolades, including Judy Goodman with BGood Bars, whose cranberry-hemp bar won the 2019 Good Food Award in San Francisco.

"From my perspective, it has just been a really cool experience to see the growth within a year within these startups, whether it's rebranding, or tweaking their recipes, or packaging and slotting," Gilkerson said.

Really, that growth and evolution is what Trailmix is all about. As a facet of Trailhead's business incubator, Rastegar said Trailmix is meant as an "onramp" specifically for food startups. Its goal is to offer networking opportunities, and bridge the gap between entrepreneurs and the food manufacturers and distributors that could help them reach consumers. The Gem State is particularly rich is food industry notables, like Alberstons, WinCo, Clif Bar, the J.R. Simplot Company, Conagra Brands and Chobani, which may help the startups in the long run, even if they don't emerge victorious at Trailmix.

"I think Boise, and Idaho for that matter, have a competitive advantage in the food space," Gilkerson said.

Who will have the advantage at this year's competition, however, remains to be seen.

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